20 December 2005


Google Earth:

Imagine a computer program where you enter the location you want to look at on the planet and see it from above – or from a variety of different angles.


I have this program and can look at my childhood public school in Brooklyn from a height of 90 feet or so. I can look at the apartment building I used to live in there as a child and show my kids the back yard we played in, the streets where I walked to school, where I played punch ball, where we lined up to go to class after recess...

We can focus in on the street in St. Paul where we used to live and look at the house the boys grew up in, the house that my wife and I bought thinking we would live there till our old age; the house that we sold to come home. They can follow the route they used to take walking to school – the alleys, the shortcuts. It’s a great trip for them. And it doesn’t cost a dime.

I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to afford to travel to America again, and I’m not sure I ever want to, but we can all look at the highlights of our lives there with this cool program.

Google Earth.

Just recently the New York Times reported on this program and the discomfort that many governments feel with it. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/technology/20image.html?hp&ex=1135141200&en=511ace6173042ea4&ei=5094&partner=homepage

Governments with something to hide always feel nervous at people looking at them from above, and lots of governments have what to hide. That’s not news, though from reading the New York Times, you would think it was.

Truth is the governments with plenty to hide do not have that much to worry about – unless they’re trying to hide it in New York...

Now we come to the negatives in the program, if you’ll pardon the pun.

I should explain that what you see is not a live-cam picture. You see still photos from various satellites roaming above the planet. The photos may be as much as a year old. Some satellites give better resolution than others, and the best pictures generally are of the United States and Canada. The satellite resolutions of Israel, Ireland and India were lousy except at several thousand feet up.

I tried to see what I could with this program looking at my neighborhood in Jerusalem. Suffice it to say, that while I was able to get clear views of Brooklyn from 90 feet up, and clear views of St. Paul from 130 feet up, the clearest view of my part of town, or any part of Israel, for that matter, came at several thousand feet.

We were barely able to identify the buildings or streets in the neighborhood. I tried this with Tel Aviv, with Tzfat, and with Bet Shemesh. I got the same results. Identifying things at close range was a breeze in most parts of the United States. This was not just true with Israel. We have friends in Northern Ireland. I tried checking out their neighborhood, too. Same problem.

Google Earth comes with a data-base of restaurants, churches, hotels and stores. It’s really designed for a tourist who wants to get a lay of the land before he gets there. But the database has serious weaknesses. It’s old, outdated, and in many places non-existent. You can find Herzl Street in Brooklyn, a minor street in what was once a Jewish neighborhood. But you cannot find Herzl Boulevard, a main drag leading west in the northern part of the city in Jerusalem.

So while you will be able to find every hole in the wall that will give you salmonella in Coney Island or in Flatbush, you’re still going to have to board the plane and fly here to catch the salmonella personally from the restaurants of this lovely city.

Download at


Blogger hfd said...

Ruvy, you forgot its worst drawback -- it does not support Mac!

27 January, 2006 00:46  

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